Monthly Archive for May, 2014

Matthijs Westera: “A pragmatics-driven theory of intonational meaning” – Today at 12:30 in Room 117

Matthijs Westera will be giving a talk on Monday at 12.30-2 in the Seminar room 117. All welcome to attend. The abstract follows.

A pragmatics-driven theory of intonational meaning
I present a compositional semantics for Dutch/English intonation, that crucially treats high phrase accents/boundary tones as signalling conversational maxim violations. I will say a bit about the ‘naturalness’ of this assumption (and argue that this naturalness is worth taking seriously), but focus mainly on the perhaps surprisingly fine-grained semantic/pragmatic predictions this yields for various contours, e.g., that contrastive topic must scope over focus, that fall-rise indicates uncertain relevance, how this may in turn come to imply incredulity, and how this all interacts with context.

Another McGill ’12 graduate to graduate school

A follow-up to this recent announcement of next year’s plans for McGill Linguistics 2012 BAs: Thea Knowles will enter the combined MClSc/PhD program in Speech Pathology at Western University this fall. Thea has been working at McGill for the past two years as a Research Assistant.


Yuliya Manyakina receives Arts travel award

Yuliya Manyakina is a recipient of Arts Graduate Student Travel award. The awards are designed to support graduate student travel for research purposes, including fieldwork. Yuliya will travel to Listuguj on June 25th along with other Mi’gmaq Partnership members, Carol Little and Douglas Gordon, and will stay until mid-August. During her stay there Yuliya plans to continue learning Mi’gmaq, help promote its use within the community, as well as do some research on different types of embedded clauses.

Congratulations, Yuliya!

Course Announcement –– LING 460: Semantics 2

A course announcement from Brendan Gillon:


Fall 2014: MWF 10h30–11h30
Course prerequisite: LING 360 or permission of instructor
This course can be taken for graduate credit by linguistics graduate students, provided they register for it under a graduate level course number.

Course Description:

The aim of the course (LING 460: Semantics 2) is to introduce students to the two most fundamental tools in semantic theory, namely, Lambek calculus and the Lambda calculus, a thorough understanding of which is necessary for advanced work in semantic theory. The Lambek calculus, due to Jim Lambek, professor emeritus of McGill University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is a generalization of the propositional calculus and it has applications in a variety of domains in mathematics, and perhaps surprisingly, in linguistics too, where it provides the mathematics of syntactic categories. In other words,
viewed in the right way, the propositional calculus can be used to formalize the syntactic categories of natural language expressions. The Lambda calculus is a notation developed by Alonzo Church to represent all functions in mathematics. It is widely used by natural language semanticists to express the values which can be associated with the expressions of a natural language. It turns out that there is a deep and elegant connection between the Lambek calculus and the Lambda calculus, which natural language semanticists find very useful to exploit. This connection is known as the Curry-Howard isomorphism.

Making all this clear as well as showing how these tools apply in an enlightening way to a variety of natural language expressions, including those involving coordination, quantificational expressions and comparative expressions, is what the course aims to do.

The course presupposes nothing other than what is covered in the introductory logic course (PHIL 210). Anyone with this much preparation is welcome to enrol.

Success in the course requires that one is at ease with, and not at all a whiz at, elementary logic and that one has the self discipline to work regularly at studying the material. Assessment is based on problem sets and class participation only.

Last year, a student who was an undergraduate major in English at McGill University and had taken only the introductory logic course (PHIL 210), took this course and did extremely well. The same student, who has gone on to graduate studies in linguistics at Oxford University, reports that he is `ahead of the game’ as a result of this when he started his studies there.

This fall will be the third time the course is offered. I shall be joined by Dr. Eliot Michaelson in teaching the course. Dr. Michaelson graduated from UCLA with a doctorate in philosophy and works in the area of philosophy of language. He is a Mellon post doctoral fellow in the Department of Philosophy.

The course will continue to use Bob Carpenter’s textbook, Type logical semantics. This book, though it is an introductory textbook, is a little on the steep side. To ease the gradient, I have written notes designed to reduce the slope in going from the level of introductory logic to the Carpenter textbook.

Welcome 2014 incoming grad students!

McLing would like to extend a warm welcome to McGill’s 6 incoming graduate students!

Colin Brown is interested in information structure and its interfaces, particularly in understudied languages. He completed his B.A. at the University of British Columbia.

Francesco Gentile’s main research interest is natural language semantics, with incursions into other areas such as phonology, pragmatics, and philosophy of language. He earned a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Nottingham, and completed an M.A. in Theoretical Linguistics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Jeffrey Lamontagne‘s main interests lie in sociophonetics and sound change, from perceptual, articulatory and acoustic perspectives. He is completing his M.A. in Linguistics at the University of Ottawa.

Betty Leung is interested in first language attrition, online language processing, and computational linguistics.  She studied Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Simon Fraser University.

Dejan Milacic is interested in syntax, semantics, pragmatics and their interfaces. He majored in Cognitive Science at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Pauline Palma‘s two main interests lie in theoretical morphology and in second language acquisition, with a particular interest in syntax and semantics. She completed her B.A. in Linguistics at UQÀM.

Brendan Gillon returns from India

Brendan Gillon is just back from four months as a visiting professor at IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Bombay, in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences. While there he worked with an MSc student from the Department of Computing Science, who is helping him develop software to assist in the development of tree banks for Classical Sanskrit. In addition to a few guest lectures in the Department of Computing Science and in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, he gave lectures at the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, at South Asian Language Association Roundtable, held this year at the University of Hyderabad, and a colloquium at ITT, Guwahati (Assam). In addition, he was a guest lecturer at a workshop on contextualism, organized by Isidora
Stojanovic, of the CNRS and of the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona (Spain), and held in conjunction with the two week school of the Indian Society for Logic and its Applications. Finally, an article, entitled `Complement polyvalence and permutation in English’, is about to appear in the Journal of Logic, Language and Information.

Also during his sabbatical, students completed their undergraduate honours thesis, one in the Department of linguistics, Frederick Gietz, and another joint between the Department of Philosophy and the Department of East Asian Studies, Oriane Gaillard.

Welcome back Brendan!

2014-03-15 17.27.07

At a festival in Cochi

Follow up on the Alberta Accent Challenge

Last week McLing posted about Charles Boberg’s research on regional Canadian accents featured in the Calgary Harald. The follow-up results of the Alberta Accent Challenge are now in, and in short, people are not very good at telling Ontarians apart from Albertans. To quote from the Herald:
“It seems we have to conclude that the Alberta-Ontario difference truly is very subtle,” says McGill linguist Dr. Charles Boberg, “lending strong support to the general claim of linguists that Canadian English is largely homogeneous over the several thousand miles from BC to Ontario.”

A successful ETI 3



Congratulations to the participants and organizers of ETI 3 on a great workshop!

McGill ’12 graduates head to graduate school

At least three McGill students who completed BAs in 2012 are off to graduate school this fall.

After spending another summer in Listuguj working on Mi’gmaq, Carol Little will head to Cornell University for a PhD program in the fall.

Elise McClay will head to UBC for an MA program. Elise has been working at McGill for the past two years as a Research Assistant.

Erin Olson, currently a Lab Manager at MIT, will remain there and enter the PhD program this fall.

Congratulations all!

(ps, if you know of plans of other recent graduates, please send them to us at McLing!)

Charles Boberg’s research in the news

The Calgary Herald just produced a piece based on recent research by Charles Boberg on regional variation in the phonetics of Canadian English. Take the online test to see whether you can tell Albertans from Ontarians based on accent:

CBC Radio 1 Montreal also did a segment for their Cinq-a-Six program on ethnic variation in Montreal English, featuring Charles Boberg with two representatives of different Montreal anglophone communities:

ETI 3 this week

Exploring the Interfaces (ETI) 3: Prosody and Constituent Structure will take place this week, Thursday May 8 through Saturday May 10. Check out the website for the program, registration, and other conference information.
We will also be hosting a pre-ETI gathering at Benelux on Wednesday evening starting at 8pm. Please join us to welcome the conference participants to Montréal!

Montrealers at WSCLA


Montreal-based WSCLA goers wait to see if their flight will make it out of the heavy fog


Mike Hamilton delivers his keynote talk

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